Prologue entry for 11/08/23 (read on 11/21/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyrs Onesiphorus And Porphyrius
These two wonderful men were martyred for the name of Christ during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. They were severely beaten, then burned on an iron grid, then tied to horses’ tails and dragged over rocks and thorns. They were thus torn to pieces and gave up their holy souls to God. Their relics are buried in Pentapolis.
2. The Venerable John The Dwarf [Kolobos]
John is numbered among the greatest of the Egyptian ascetics. “Kolobos” means “dwarf,” for he was of little stature. He came to Scetis with his brother Daniel and, with the greatest zeal, devoted himself to such asceticism that Daniel had to urge him to moderation. John was a disciple of St. Pambo, and was later the teacher of St. Arsenius the Great. His fellow disciple under St. Pambo was St. Paisius the Great. Once, when he and Paisius were discussing what kind of asceticism to undertake, an angel of God appeared to them and commanded John to stay where he was and instruct others, and Paisius to enter the wilderness and live as a hermit. In order to test John’s obedience, St. Pambo ordered him to water a dry stick planted in the ground until it turned green. Without hesitation or doubt, John watered this stick daily for three whole years until by the power of God, it grew green sprouts and brought forth fruit. Pambo then gathered the fruit from this tree, brought it to church and distributed it among the brethren saying: “Draw near and taste of the fruit of obedience!” John the Dwarf had many disciples. Some of his wise sayings have been preserved. He entered into rest peacefully and took up his habitation in the joy of his Lord.
3. The Venerable Matrona Of Constantinople
Matrona was from Perga in Pamphylia. Matrona’s marriage to Dometian, a nobleman of Constantinople, soon became unbearable to her. Disguised in men’s clothing, she fled and adopted the name Babylas, then entered the Monastery of St. Bassian in Constantinople. Because her husband searched for her constantly, she was forced to move repeatedly. Altogether, she moved to Emesa, Sinai, Jerusalem and Beirut, and finally returned to Constantinople. Matrona was tonsured a nun at age twenty-five, and lived the ascetic life for seventy-five years. In all she lived a hundred years, and died peacefully in the year 492 A.D. as abbess of a monastery in Constantinople, taking up her abode in the joy of her Lord.
4. The Venerable Euthymius Of Dochiariou And His Disciple Neophytus
Euthymius and Neophytus were Serbs by birth and kinsmen of high-ranking aristocrats in Byzantium. Euthymius was a companion of St. Athanasius and the steward of his Lavra, after which he founded the Monastery of Dochiariou. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 990 A.D. His nephew Neophytus succeeded him as abbot of Dochiariou, increased the brotherhood and built a large church. He entered into rest at the beginning of the eleventh century.
5. Saint Simeon Metaphrastes [The Translator]
Simeon was a gifted Constantinopolitan. He had both a secular and spiritual education. He attained the rank of imperial logothete [chancellor] and was first among the nobles at the imperial court, yet he lived a pure and blameless life as a true ascetic. He distinguished himself by great military bravery and statesmanly wisdom. For these qualities, Emperor Leo the Wise greatly respected him and sent him to Crete to negotiate a peace with the Arabs who then occupied the island. Successfully completing his mission, he returned to Constantinople and soon thereafter withdrew from the world and worldly affairs. He wrote many lives of saints, compiling 122 new biographies and correcting 539 biographies. He entered into rest in about the year 960 A.D., and a fragrant and healing myrrh flowed from his relics.
6. The Venerable Theoctista Of Paros
Theoctista was born on the island of Lesbos and was tonsured a nun at the age of seventeen. The savage Saracens attacked the island and enslaved all who fell into their hands, including Theoctista and her sister. When the Saracens brought the slaves to the marketplace on the island of Paros, Theoctista escaped from the crowd and hid in an abandoned church in the middle of the island, where she lived a life of asceticism for thirty-five years. She entered into rest in the year 881 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Simeon Metaphrastes
St. Simeon was called Metaphrastes—
He dedicated his God-given talent to the Church.
He loved the saints, the friends of God,
And wondrously described their struggles:
Struggles in spirit, struggles in the flesh,
Struggles in thought, and struggles in deeds.
He was a true friend to the friends of God,
Who are dearest to God of all the men in the world.
He loved those whom God loves,
And through them he deepened his love for God.
Simeon shone with love for God,
And wrote his Lives like a brilliant tapestry,
For new generations in the four corners of the world,
To nourish their souls with true spiritual integrity,
By having vivid examples of saintly nobility,
By which to follow in the footsteps of patristic teachings.
Wondrous is our God in His saints;
Wondrous is the Lord, the Creator of angels.
After a long separation from his companion Paisius, John the Dwarf visited him. Each asked the other what virtue he had attained in the time they were apart. Paisius said: “The sun has never seen me eat.” John the Dwarf said: “And it has never seen me angry.” Instructing the brethren in Scetis, John used this story of a repentant human soul: “In one town there lived a beautiful woman, a harlot who had many lovers. A certain prince told her that he would take her as his wife if she promised that she would live honorably and faithfully in marriage. She promised this and the prince took her to his court and married her. However, her former lovers decided to turn her back to her former ways, and reclaim her for themselves. They dared not face the prince, so they went around the back of the palace and began to whistle. The woman heard the whistling, recognized it, and quickly stopped her ears. She hid in an inner chamber of the palace and locked the door behind her. Thus, she was delivered from new temptations.” St. John explained this story in the following manner: “The harlot is the soul; her lovers are the passions; the prince is Christ; the inner chamber is the heavenly habitation; and the lovers who whistle and entice are the demons. If the soul would constantly turn from its passions and flee to God, then the passions and the demons would be frightened and flee from it.”
Contemplate the appearance to Paul of an angel in a tempest at night (Acts 27):
- How an angel of God appeared to Paul by night and told him to fear not, for he would be saved, and all those with him;
- How Paul related this to the men on the boat, greatly encouraging them.
on saving grace
By grace ye are saved (Ephesians 2:5, 8). Who can comprehend and acknowledge that we are saved by grace—that we are saved by God’s grace, and not by our merits and works? Who can comprehend and acknowledge that? Only he who has comprehended and seen the bottomless pit of death and corruption in which man is engulfed by sin, and has also comprehended and seen the height of honor and glory to which man is raised in the Heavenly Kingdom, in the realm of immortality, in the house of the Living God—only such a one can comprehend and acknowledge that we are saved by grace. A child was traveling by night. He stumbled and fell into hole after hole and pit after pit, until he finally fell into a very deep pit from which he could in no way escape by his own power. When the child gave himself over to the hands of fate and thought his end was near, there was suddenly someone standing over the pit, lowering a rope to him and telling him to grab the rope and hold firmly to it. This was the king’s son, who then took the child home, bathed him, clothed him and brought him to his court and set him beside himself. Was this child saved by his own deed? By no means. All he did was to grab the end of the rope, and hold on. By what, then, was the child saved? By the mercy of the king’s son. In God’s relationship with men, this mercy is called grace. By grace ye are saved. The Apostle Paul repeats these words twice in a short span, that the faithful might recognize and remember them. Brethren, let us comprehend and remember that we are saved through grace by the Lord Jesus Christ. We were in the jaws of death, but have been given life in the courts of our God. O Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, by Thee are we saved. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.